Thursday, August 6, 2009

California student faces 10 years in jail after altering video game consoles

Matthew Lloyd Crippen is a student at California State University at Fullerton, who was arrested Monday on charges that he illegally modified Xbox, Wii, Playstation and other game consoles to play pirated video games. reported that the 27-year-old was taken into custody Monday morning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. This arrest follows his indictment by a federal grand jury on two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Crippen is accused of modifying the video game consoles for personal financial gain. Each criminal count such as this, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, reported.

It turns out that the ICE have been investigating Crippen ever since last year when they received a tip from the Entertainment Software Association. The ICE seized Crippen's home last May and found a dozen Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony video game consoles.

Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE investigations office in Los Angeles, said "piracy and counterfeiting violations not only cost U.S. businesses jobs and billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, they can also pose significant health and safety risks to consumers."

“Playing with games in this way is not a game -- it is criminal,” Schoch said.

The ICE said that counterfeiting and piracy have grown in recent years. As of now, counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy $250 billion a year, which equals a total of 750,000 American jobs. reported that some estimates even indicate that 5 percent to 8 percent of all the goods sold worldwide are counterfeit.

Crippen was expected to make his initial federal court appearance late Monday in Los Angeles.

So does this mean that pirated video games have replaced the worry of sharing and downloading music? Are people like Crippen "fixing" games across the country to fit their personal needs? If so, does the company resemble anything like Shawn Fanning's business, Napster?

All of these are questions ran through my head while reading this and the whole music downloading and sharing debacle got me thinking about copyright law and piracy.

Napster allowed people to download music for free and share it with their friends. Moguls in the record company heard about the system and witnessed their paychecks being cut in half. Why buy music when you can get it for free? Outraged, artists came together and accused Napster of taking music and selling it for free without consent.

The Recording Industry Association of America sued Fanning's company for copyright infringement. While Napster users may have thought they were doing nothing wrong, the fact was that they were stealing someone else's copyrighted material. Fanning could not claim fair use either because the value and potential market of the original works were being affected.

I wonder if Crippen's case is common and happening around the country. The music industry cracked down on Napster to where the company is only allowed to "sell" music – not distribute it for free. Will the video game industry do the same when it comes to pirating games and modifying consoles? Only time will tell.


Amy said...

Interesting aricle!